Sam Allardyce’s West Brom face Wolves for the second time this season, hoping to do the league double over their Black Country rivals in what has otherwise remained a lacklustre return to the Premier League.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s men come off the back of an awful 4-0 loss to Burnley, with some fans starting to call for the manager’s head, while the Baggies must shake off the heartbreak of conceding a last minute equaliser against other rivals Aston Villa.
Allardyce’s men remain 11 points from safety with just five games to go, so this game already looks like one for bragging rights and pride rather than points. In all honestly, Albion will likely have to win all five remaining games to stand a chance of surviving this season. It just isn’t likely to happen.
In any case, though, as noted, Allardyce and the players will want to get one over their Black Country rivals for the second time this season, and with the Wolves have been playing this season, a result does not seem unlikely.
Branislav Ivanovic is one of two long-term absentees at Albion, with the former Chelsea man unlikely to ever play for the club again. The other is Robert Snodgrass, who is seemingly closing in on a return, though this game may be one too soon for the Scotsman.
Allardyce largely likes to keep his XI the same, even after a poor result, so it is unlikely we will see wholesale changes to the side that drew away at Villa.
A big question revolves around the defence, and whether it will be Semi Ajayi or Dara O’Shea to partner Kyle Bartley. Ajayi has had some time out of the team since his silly red card away at Burnley, though has made some appearances off the bench. O’Shea is definitely still raw at this level but is complemented well by Bartley’s leadership and vocality, so Allardyce will likely stick with this pairing.
Another big question seems to be whether Callum Robinson gets the nod ahead of Chelsea loanee Conor Gallagher, which would mean a change of shape for the Baggies. Given how well Robinson did last time out against Wolves, and his recent form, he will likely get the nod.
The Dingles’ talisman Raul Jimenez remains sidelined after suffering from a fractured skull and is unlikely to feature again for Wolves this season. Meanwhile Jonny Otto, Pedro Neto and Joao Moutinho are some of the other key players out on the sidelines.
The long injury list will be welcome news for the Baggies because after all, despite Wolves’ woes this season, they remain the better side on paper. And even so, the Baggies will have to be at their best if they want to do another league double over their rivals.
Albion and Wolves are as predictable as it gets when it comes to gameplans and tactics. Allardyce will once again ask his men to do the basics right, defend strongly and resolutely, and get the ball up and across the pitch as quickly as possible.
Wolves are also known for their back three / back five shape, which facilitates blistering counter-attacks from silky players such as Adama Traore and Fabio Silva.
Both of these players, especially Silva, caused some serious problems for the Baggies back at Molineux in January, so keeping them quiet will be key to getting any sort of result.
Once again, Matheus Pereira will be key for the Baggies, with any good results so far this season mostly involving either a goal or assist from the Brazilian. He scored twice against Wolves in January, which can be seen as the moment he truly found his form at Premier League level – let’s hope he can do the same once again.
Score Prediction: West Brom 2-1 Wolves
It will be a tight game, with little more than pride riding on the result. Albion still have something to fight for, and this will likely tell after 90 minutes.